Regular IRAs and Roth IRAs

Print

Open an IRA Today!

Our Consultants Can Help!

In addition to 401(k)s and similar retirement plans that are sponsored by employers, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) offer tax advantages too great to pass up.

The plain-vanilla type of IRA is a regular IRA. Regular IRAs are also called traditional IRAs. For 2019, you are allowed to contribute up to $6,000 to your IRA. If you have more than one account, you may contribute to all of them, as long as the total contributed is not greater than the yearly limit.

Regular IRAs

As a result of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, you can make larger contributions to a regular or Roth IRA beginning in 2003. A catch-up provision allows workers who turn age 50 to make even larger contributions.

The following table shows individual contribution limits for regular (and Roth) IRAs. Since 2009, the limits have been indexed to inflation in increments of $500:

Yearly individual contribution limits (2004-2019):

YearYearly limitAdditional contributions (age 50 or older)Catch-up limit
2004$3,000$500$3,500
2005$4,000$500$4,500
2006$4,000$1,000$5,000
2007$4,000$1,000$5,000
2008$5,000$1,000$6,000
2009$5,000$1,000$6,000
2010$5,000$1,000$6,000
2011$5,000$1,000$6,000
2012$5,000$1,000$6,000
2013$5,500$1,000$6,500
2014$5,500$1,000$6,500
2015$5,500$1,000$6,500
2016$5,500$1,000$6,500
2017$5,500$1,000$6,500
2018$5,500$1,000$6,500

Contributions to regular IRAs are tax-deductible, subject to income limits and your (or a spouse's) participation in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. The earnings on an IRA grow tax-deferred, which means you don't owe income taxes until you begin to take distributions from the account.

You can begin to take penalty-free distributions from a regular (or Roth) IRA after you reach age 59-1/2. In most cases, you must pay an early-withdrawal penalty if you take a distribution sooner. Regular IRAs require that you begin to take distributions when you reach age 70-1/2. The amount you are required to take each year is called your required minimum distribution (RMD). To calculate your required minimum distribution, see Appendix B of IRS Pub. 590-B: "Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)."

Nondeductible contributions to regular IRAs

If you earn too much income, or already participate in a 401(k) or similar retirement plan, your tax-deductible contributions to a regular IRA are gradually phased out. This means that some of your contributions to a regular IRA cannot be deducted from your income. The contributions that are not tax-deductible are called nondeductible contributions. Here are the income limits at which your tax-deductible contributions phase out:

  • Single filers that participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. If your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is more than $63,000 and less than $73,000 in 2018, some of your contribution is nondeductible. Above $73,000, your entire contribution is nondeductible.
  • Married persons filing a joint return and just you or you and your spouse participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. If modified adjusted gross income is more than $101,000 and less than $121,000 in 2018, some of your contribution is nondeductible. Above $121,000, your entire contribution is nondeductible. The income limit for your non-participating spouse is $189,000 to $199,000 for 2018.
  • Married persons with neither spouse participating in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. No income limits exist. For 2018, you can make a fully tax-deductible contribution of up to $5,500 to each spouse's IRA. The catch-up provision allows persons age 50 or older to contribute up to $6,500.

To help you calculate a nondeductible contribution, see Worksheet 1-2 for a reduced IRA deduction in IRS Pub. 590-A. You will also have to complete IRS Form 8606 to ensure that you don't pay income taxes later on the amount of contributions on which you've already paid taxes.

Roth IRAs

You can contribute up to $5,500 to a Roth IRA for 2018. The same catch-up provision allows persons age 50 or older to contribute up to $6,500 to a Roth IRA or combination of accounts.

A big difference in regular IRAs and Roth IRAs is that your contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax-deductible. Instead, your contributions are made after paying income taxes. This disadvantage would seem to favor regular IRAs. However, if you keep a Roth IRA for at least five years and have reached age 59-1/2, become disabled, die, or incur allowable expenses related to a first-time home purchase, the entire amount is exempt from income tax and IRS penalties.

Also, Roth IRAs do not have required minimum distributions, which gives you more flexibility in planning your estate. If you wish, you can leave the entire amount of a Roth IRA to your beneficiaries.

At higher incomes, allowable contributions to a Roth IRA phase out altogether:

  • Single filers. If your modified adjusted gross income for 2018 is more than $120,000 and less than $135,000, you can make a partial contribution. At incomes above $135,000, you cannot contribute.
  • Married persons filing a joint return. If modified adjusted gross income for 2018 is more than $189,000 and less than $199,000, you can make a partial contribution. At incomes above $199,000, you cannot contribute.

To calculate a partial contribution:

  1. Calculate your modified adjusted gross income. Example 1 assumes you are 45 years old, report a MAGI of $123,000 for 2018, and file a single return. Example 2 assumes you and your spouse are both age 50, report a combined MAGI of $192,000, and file a joint return.
  2. Subtract lower range of income phase-outs. For single taxpayers, the lower range where your allowable contribution begins to phase out is $120,000. For married taxpayers filing a joint return, the lower range is $189,000. For Example 1, subtract $120,000 from $124,000 to obtain $3,000. For Example 2, subtract $189,000 from $192,000 to obtain $3,000. (See IRS Pub. 590-A for other circumstances.)
  3. Divide amount by the appropriate divisor. For single taxpayers, the divisor is $15,000. For married taxpayers filing a joint return, the divisor is $10,000. For Example 1, $3,000 divided by $15,000 is equal to 0.200, rounded to three decimal places. For Example 2, $3,000 divided by $10,000 is equal to 0.300.
  4. Multiply the result in step 3 by $5,500 for a 2018 contribution ($6,500 if age 50 or older). Be sure to subtract any contributions to a regular IRA for the respective year. For Example 1, 0.200 multiplied by $5,500 is equal to $1,100. For Example 2, 0.300 multiplied by $6,500 is $1,950.
  5. Subtract the result in step 4 by the maximum allowable contribution and round down to the nearest $10. For Example 1, $1,100 subtracted from $5,500 is equal to $4,400. For Example 2, $1,950 subtracted from $6,500 is equal to $4,550. Since these amounts are already rounded down to the next multiple of $10, they are your allowable contributions for 2018.

The following tables show allowable partial contributions to a Roth IRA for 2018:

45-year old investor(s)2018
Example 1: Single (MAGI of $124,000)$4,400
Example 2: Married filing jointly (MAGI of $192,000)$3,850
50-year old investor(s)2018
Example 1: Single (MAGI of $124,000)$5,200
Example 2: Married filing jointly (MAGI of $192,000)$4,550

The above information is educational and should not be interpreted as financial advice. For advice that is specific to your circumstances, you should consult a financial or tax adviser.

Open an IRA Today! 

Our Consultants Can Help!